Guest article by Martina Čaić for our My Academic Role Model series.

Thank you very much Bieke for nominating me! I must say, I very much enjoy reading the role model reflections in the SERVSIG newsletter because they provide inspiration for qualities I would like to emulate in my academic work. Because of your nomination, I had to turn the reflection inward, go down memory lane, and think about the scholars and educators who left a mark on my academic journey. Before starting, I need to first explain what an academic role model means to me: these are people I greatly admire, but who have also directly impacted my career. They are people who inspire me and who I often think about when I step into new roles like being a PhD supervisor or leading a research group.

I naturally must start with the two people who have kickstarted and nurtured my academic journey: my dissertation supervisors Gaby Odekerken-Schröder and Dominik Mahr

I admire Gaby for being a strong yet empathic leader. Her energy and positivity are contagious and got me excited about my research so many times. I think she has impacted my career by helping me navigate the academic community, opening her network for collaborations, and being my number one cheerleader and ambassador for my research.  Gaby inspires me because while she is an extremely successful and respected scholar, she remains a very grounded person with a strong identity as a mother and valuing family first and foremost. Another thing that inspires me is Gaby’s curiosity and her willingness to learn, experiment, and bridge different communities and fields (e.g., service management, service design, robotics). 

I admire Dominik for being such a great listener (of my research-related ramblings over coffee or beer) and for being so approachable and supportive. Dominik became my mentor while I was still in Croatia during my Master’s studies as I got inspired and interested in a research career after attending his seminar on digital innovations. Dominik has impacted my academic career by opening the door toward pursuing a PhD at Maastricht University and I am immensely grateful for that opportunity. Dominik pushed me to challenge myself and step outside of my comfort zone (too many times), which was very important in my academic development. Dominik inspires me because he has become such a successful researcher while staying very humble and making academic life seem so enjoyable. I am also inspired by Dominik’s great knowledge about innovation and new technologies and the fact that he works on topics that he is truly curious about.

Aside from my supervisory team, my academic journey has been greatly influenced by being part of the Service Design for Innovation (SDIN) network. I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from some great scholars whom I admire and am still inspired by. Amongst the senior scholars, Stefan Holmlid, Lia Patrício, Daniela Sangiorgi, Bo Edvardsson, Bård Tronvoll, Birgit Mager, and Katarina Wetter Edman; but also, my fellow junior scholars including Josina Vink, Vanessa Rodrigues, and Ana Kuštrak Korper – you are my role models too!

I would like to pass the torch to Kaisa Koskela-Huotari (SSE) and Josina Vink (AHO) and invite them to share their academic role model reflections. Looking forward to reading them!